What happened to the great backyard star, the deck?
Today more and more decking contractors, remodelers, and dealers have quietly morphed into outdoor lifestyle specialists. While the deck still plays a leading role, it’s now supported by a large backyard cast.
So reports Charlie Wardell, a contributing editor at Hanley Wood, the folks behind widely-read trade publications like PROFESSIONAL DECK BUILDER, BUILDER, and REMODELER. Recently Wardell shared his 2017 decking and railing outlook, gained from observations and exclusive interviews at the Deck Expo. The big takeaway: “A lot of companies are switching their marketing focus from decking and railing to outdoor living,” Wardell told us in a private chat. “They’re selling lifestyle rather than product.”
The idea isn’t new, of course, but the speed of transition may be. Mike Beaudry, executive director of NADRA (North American Deck and Railing Association), told Wardell their annual deck design award candidates used to be “deck after deck.” Beaudry says “… it’s now patios with connected decks and pools, screened-in porches, arbors, and outdoor kitchens.” It’s not your grandfather’s backyard anymore. The new normal features LED lighting, pergolas, weather-proof storage cabinets, and other indoor amenities.
What else to look for this year:
This year watch for composite boards that mimic distressed wood flooring, complete with variegated streaking. The rough-hewn rustic look appears in patterns won’t repeat for up to 12 feet. Homeowners have never had so many composite choices for color, texture, installation ease, and price points.
One composite flooring manufacturer says their boards have conquered a new frontier: They’re bare-foot friendly … or at least, friendlier. They say the new composites don’t give you the hot foot like standard composites. A special capstock technology reduces heat absorption by up to 35 percent. Even a cool new feature like this isn’t always obvious to pros, much less consumers. “At first glance, most the composite decking products look very similar,” Wardell tells us. “You have to ask questions to understand the differences.”
“Buyers also want classier railings, which is reflected in the explosion of railing products,” his states. Notable among them are cable rails, which Wardell says were especially prominent at the Expo. Lighting also features prominently in outdoor spaces, and is a great add-on to any railing.
Wardell likes the direction of industry innovation and rush to serve a mushrooming outdoor lifestyle segment. But, as he quickly adds, repositioning yourself in an evolving marketplace doesn’t guarantee success. That still comes down to old-fashioned service, quality, and performance.